The Islamists Make Another Move

Do you remember the beheading of Samuel Paty in France in October 2020? Paty was a French school teacher. A Muslim murdered him for showing cartoons in a class of free speech and expression. Search Google for details. It is a terrifying story. The Muslim intended to send a message to the West: you will affirm our religion by following its rules.

Free speech and expression, part of France’s principle of state secularism, or laïcité, is central to France’s national identity. Laïcité demands that public spaces—whether classrooms, government agencies, or workplaces—should be secular places. According to the principle, to restrict freedom of expression to protect the feelings of any particular community would undermine the national unity central to the perpetuation of the republic.

A few weeks ago, the United States had its own incident. Fortunately, the teacher wasn’t beheaded. Erika López Prater was fired. That’s bad enough. The same end was reached. A message was delivered. There is a difference. The perpetrators are facing no punishment for the deed.

“I’m 23 years old. I have never once seen an image of the Prophet,” said Aram Wedatalla fighting back tears during a press conference held Wednesday at the Minneapolis headquarters of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN). 

Well, now she has. And it cannot be unseen.

“CAIR-MN executive director Jaylani Hussein said most Muslims around the world oppose the public display of images of the Prophet Muhammad. To show the image of the Prophet, said Hussein, is deeply offensive. And he called that violation of the prohibition an act of Islamophobia,” reports MPR News in the article “Hamline student, former instructor at center of debate over religion, academic freedom speak out.”

Executive director Jaylani Hussein of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on Islamic-American Relations.

This is an organized action. This is another moment in the ideological colonization of a national culture—here striking at the institutional foundation of the pursuit of truth, the American university. This is a moment in the attempted delegitimization of the foundation of the United States—the principles of religious liberty and free expression.  

If this were a naive and brainwashed student, a shallow human being who did not understand the core values of the country in which she is living, perhaps that’d be one thing. There is a way to help her and she was potentially in the right place (unfortunately we can see that she is not). No, what we have here is the executive direction of CAIR-MN calling a depiction of Muhammad an instantiation of “Islamophobia.” 

“Islamophobia” is a propaganda word Islamist activists plagiarized from the gay and lesbian movement. “Homophobia” refers to pathological fear, loathing, or hatred of homosexuals, so the Islamists fashioned a term like it in order to smear critics of Islam—and virtually all that is not Islam—bigotry.

However, Islam is an ideology. Ideologies concern what people believe. I was no more destined to identify as a Muslim than I was a Christian, only more likely to identify as the latter because of my upbringing. As it turns out, I identify as neither. I don’t believe in Christianity, therefore I am not a Christian. It follows that, in a free society, I do not have to follow the rules of Christianity. That’s not the way homosexuality works at all. Homosexual is who the person is, not what he believes. Same with being heterosexual. I can’t help it that I am attracted to women. It wasn’t a choice I made. I just am. That’s not ideology. Islamophobia is a nonsensical concept.

“I do not see it as Islamophobic,” said Amna Khalid, a history professor at Carleton College (in Northfield, Minnesota) whose opinion piece about the controversy was published in The Chronicle of Higher Education. “Islamophobic is about malintent towards Muslims, or something that is symbolic to Muslims. There is no malintent here.” Leaving aside that Islamophobia isn’t really a thing (again, it confuses ideology with people), the Islamist Hussein said it doesn’t matter that the instructor warned students before she showed the image. “In reality a trigger warning is an indication that you are going to do harm.”

My first reaction takes the form of a suggestion: If, in reality, a trigger warning is an indication that you are going to do harm, then let’s get rid of trigger warnings. But what harm does showing a depiction of Muhammad cause? A person is harmed because she is offended? Really? It’s even more ridiculous than that. An offense is caused by the person who takes it. That’s why call it “taking offense.” To “take offense” is to become angry or upset by something that another person has said or done. There is nothing inherent in a painting or a word that makes it offensive. You don’t like the word. It has made you angry or upset. Get over it.

But is it really about not liking a word or a picture? Don’t most people take offense—and claim oppression and all the rest of it—to control other people? I think so. It’s a power trip. It’s something like a cluster B personality disorder. You know, narcissism and those traits. Making somebody do something they otherwise wouldn’t gives the person taking offense feelings of control. “How dare you.” As if they’re so special others wouldn’t dare. As if others are beneath them. See, if a person can make another person kneel before her delusions, whether by coercion or force, then she has power over them.

Aram Wedatalla

That Wedatalla weeps at her press conference doesn’t make her any action any less vile. Emotional blackmail only compounds her offense.

Stand back and take note, people: Contemporary America is experiencing this type of personality more than ever, this character that demands others uphold their doctrine and affirm their delusions. “You will call me what I tell you to call me.” You will obey the rules of my religion.” Or what? You will be fired. Maybe killed. (Paty is not the only one. See Threat-Minimization and Ecumenical Demobilization.) It will not do anymore to humor these people, to smile and be polite to them. It’s beyond the time to be obnoxious about free speech and religious liberty. 

“This course will introduce students to several religious traditions and the visual cultures they have produced historically,” reads a copy of Lopez Prater’s syllabus. “This includes showing and discussing both representational and non-representational depictions of holy figures (for example, the Prophet Muhammad, Jesus Christ, and the Buddha). If you have any questions or concerns about either missing class for a religious observance or the visual content that will be presented, please do not hesitate to contact me.”

No student contacted her with concerns. What more can she do? She can not present materials Muslims don’t like.

“You can’t erase history and I think it is actually important that we teach and demonstrate the internal diversity within the history of Islam which is a very, in my opinion, underrepresented and misunderstood religion,” she explained. She told MPR that the administration never reached out to her to discuss her side. Instead, they sent out a campus-wide email calling her actions Islamophobic. 

The university in question is Hamline University. It’s located in St. Paul, Minnesota. That’s right next door to the 5th District, encompassing Minneapolis, represented in Congress by Ilhan Omar (I wonder whose side she’s on).

Taking up Jaylani Hussein’s angle, Wedatalla said, whether intended or not, the classroom display caused her pain. It hurt her. “It just breaks my heart that I have to stand here to tell people that something is Islamophobic and something actually hurts all of us, not only me,” she said.

But it’s not something that hurts “all of us” because there is no collective you. You are an individual. You don’t speak for others—even those who share your faith. To be sure, there are some Muslims who believe like you can hold other individuals accountable to your faith, to make them abide by the rules of a religion that is not there. They even resort to violence to impose their religious rules on others. You have the arrogance to presume to speak for other Muslims. You’re ego-tripping. Who appointed you head commissar of the Islamic faith?

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Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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